Friday, February 18, 2011


The dictionary says a windrow is a “row of hay raked up to dry before being baled,” and right now I can almost imagine the smell of new hay and the warm summer sun. Almost, but not quite. Because outside it’s February, which seems to go on forever. And everywhere on the roads I see another type of windrow: piles of snow shoved the side by giant graders clearing the streets.
This week in the newspaper, a number of people were complaining about the increasingly large windrows, with due cause. The streets get so narrow you can’t pass two cars side by side, you have to pull far into the intersection when you are making a turn to see if it’s clear, and there is not the smallest hope of parking on the road.

Windrows are a great image for the way my career has gone—an increasingly large pile of “stuff” that has been pushed to the side, at times violently by a sharp blade. It’s hard not to stare at those piles, to pick through them and relive the disappointments and confusion of each successive loss and change, to try to make sense of it all. Yet spending my energy picking through those piles feels like a waste; I should be looking instead at the path that has been cleared ahead of me.

That’s a nice metaphor, but it isn’t really working for me. Because where the path is cleared is only empty space, and there are times I have no idea how to fill it. As a woman I’m forced in so many different ways to be creative, to fit things in depending on what my family needs, or what others need, and it’s hard to think about that empty space as something I can fill entirely on my own. There are too many other competing demands to consider. And I know whatever I put into that space is just as likely to change yet again, to move in another direction. I am weary of change and the older I get, the more I just want some things to stay the same.

It takes a certain amount of courage to walk into empty space, to suck back the disappointments and self-doubt and keep being available for whatever life puts in front of you. So I try to keep forgiving myself, forgiving the snowplows, forgiving the narrowed spaces and the long cold of winter, and trust that all the courage it takes to keep walking will make me the kind of person that can come alive again in spring.